GRR

10 best modern alloy wheel designs

09th March 2023
Ethan Jupp

Like the right footwear on a red carpet, wheels can make or break the design of a car. Quite often it’s the case that they’re a defining feature, a reason on their own, or among many, that a car is memorable or has its iconic status. When we first considered doing a list on car wheels, it was going to span the history of motoring, but there are so many incredible designs throughout, we just had to split it into two. Even then, both the classic (pre-2000) and modern lists each have some 20 entries.

Why make the millennium the cutting off point? Well, it’s around then that wheels and tyres began to change, getting wider in section and thinner in profile. These proportion changes effected how designers approached the wheels themselves, exploring new aero and weight-saving concepts, as well as exploring how to reinvent some classic design tropes. So let’s go through what we think are some of the best modern alloy wheels. Might we note too, this is extensive, but by no means exhaustive. Have your say on your favourites in the comments.

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1. Golf GTI Mk5 ‘Monza’

We begin with a modern classic whose wheels were beloved when new as they are now. The Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI was a return to form for a badge and lineage that had lost its way. So perfectly judged was a car that was fun yet formal, cheeky yet classy, it looked as good outside a Hilton as it did a Halfords car park on a Friday night. The five-spoke ‘Monza’ wheels were an absolutely critical element to this design and why the GTI is so fondly-remembered today. They completed the package.

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2. BMW M3 E46 ‘double spoke’

BMW M knows how to do a great wheel. While the 1980s and 1990s saw some beauties, the ‘low-profile’ era that succeeded them arguably picked up where they left off. For it’s not the iconic CSL ‘BBS’ wheels we’ve picked here, nor the larger optional items, but the E46 M3’s standard double-spoke wheels, which betrayed the convention of ‘that which is not optional being sub-par and designed to push you to fork out extra’. These intricate yet elegant, technical yet artful wheels perhaps sum up best the delectable balance of the E46 look, feel and driving experience.

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3. Lamborghini Murcielago Roadster ‘Hercules’

It will come as no surprise to you that the era of cars being discussed in this modern list is the one I grew up with. While the Murci’ wasn’t my pinup supercar of choice in 2004, that didn’t stop the ‘Hercules’ wheels that made their debut on the roadster utterly dropping my jaw. Sort of a play on the classic five-spoke design debuted on the earlier coupe, these were more technical, more sculptural, shaped in a way that felt milled from solid and dished pretty well to perfection.

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4. McLaren-Mercedes SLR

Function and form in perfect harmony. That’s how we’d describe the aero blade wheels on the McLaren-Mercedes SLR supercar of the mid 2000s. As well as looking good and befitting entirely the continent-crushing hyper GT proportions and stance of the SLR, these wheels served an added purpose, sucking hot air from the brakes out of the wheel and around the car. Properly mesmerising things – just don’t poke your fingers in when moving. Actually, that’s ill-advised with any car and not something we should have to tell you not to do.

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5. Koenigsegg CCR

This was a good era for the ‘pepper pot’ wheel concept, on which hypercar newbies Koenigsegg put their own spin. Like the Murci Roadster wheels, these had the look and feel of being hewn from solid and sat so artfully within the arches of one of the cleanest shapes in motoring at the time. They weren’t just flat-faced either, with rises and falls in the spokes visible when looking from the side. These wheels were rated for 240mph+ speeds at the time too.

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6. Porsche 911 997 ‘Carrera Sport’

Okay, away from modern classic hypercars, let’s look at some more conventional stuff. Porsche 911s have for the last couple of decades been cars with many wheel options. Truthfully? Many of them were letdowns – a bit mediocre. Not so the 997’s ‘Carrera Sport’ wheels, which also happened to be available on the Cayman and Boxster. That didn’t detract from their appeal one bit, with the classy multi-rounded spokes striking a perfect balance between performance and poise. These are now a highly sought-after option on mid-2000s Porsches.

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7. Volvo C30 DRIVe

No it's not always massively performance-orientated cars that get the coolest wheels. The big move towards especially eco variants of cars in the 2000s lead to the creation of cars like the Volvo C30 DRIVe, with bespoke slippery aero and extra efficient engines. These incredible wheels were a part of that effort to make the C30 glide through the air as cleanly as possible and they’re super distinctive.

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8. Alfa Romeo Brera

What a drop-dead stunner the Alfa Brera was on its release in the mid-2000s. We don’t reckon there was a bad wheel option on it, either. Truthfully though, it was always ‘pepper pots’ or go home because these 8C-inspired wheels are just so classically beautiful, evoking Alfa racers and sportscars of the 1960s. A shame then that those wheels and that beautiful bodywork was all hung off Vauxhall Astra underpinnings.

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9. Mercedes CL65 AMG

There are Mercedes AMGs and there are Mercedes AMGs. Yes, you can get the 55 AMG that looks the business with its supercharged V8 and quad pipes. Or, you could get the 65 AMG and stop the show. Objectively worse, so much more expensive and arguably not as good-sounding, why do we adore these early V12 AMGs so much? They’re just a perfect symbol of excess. No Mercedes CL, SL or S-Class could handle over 600PS (441kW) and almost 900Nm (664lb ft) of torque but hey, you can’t put a price on that kind of overtaking punch. How do you tell if someone’s really balling? The 65 and V12 badges were giveaways but, at a distance, it was always those smoked two-piece splits, with their delectable dish and way with the light, as if hewn from some otherworldly metal. Perfection.

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10. Audi RS4

Audi have always been pretty good with wheels. Hell, the RS2 that started it all for the lineage of Audi RSs we know and love today kicked it all off by borrowing a set of five-spoke stunners from the 993 Porsche 911 Turbo, but we digress, because right now we want to talk about the 2007 Audi RS4. Like a lot of cars from this era, the B7 RS4 was just so… right, and that goes for the stunning split seven-spoke wheels, too. Simple yet effective, delectably dished, they were so good that they lived on into the RS 6 and eventually (somewhat sadly) lower non RS Audis. The RS4 did them best, though.

  • List

  • Alloy wheels

  • Volkswagen

  • Golf GTI

  • BMW

  • E46 M3

  • M3

  • Lamborghini

  • Murcielago

  • McLaren

  • Mercedes

  • SLR

  • Koenigsegg

  • Porsche

  • 911

  • 997

  • Volvo

  • C30

  • Alfa Romeo

  • Brera

  • CL65

  • AMG

  • Audi

  • RS4

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